Before he heads to Sochi to represent the United States in the Olympics, Max Pacioretty gets one more chance to give the Montreal Canadiens a lift.
After earning both a dubious distinction and a hat trick in his previous game, Pacioretty looks to help the Canadiens extend their win streak to three with another victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Pacioretty leads Montreal (31-21-6) with 26 goals and his 37 points are second to P.K. Subban's 39. However, the left wing's impact for the Canadiens is clear with 23 of his goals and eight assists coming in victories.
He has 14 points in the previous eight wins, getting at least one in each.
"Pacioretty's obviously an elite player in this league," goaltender Carey Price told the team's official website.
Pacioretty came up big again Thursday, netting his second hat trick of the season in a 5-2 win over Vancouver. The feat was made more impressive by the fact he scored two goals after becoming the first NHL player to miss two penalty shots in one period.
"He stuck with it," said Subban, who assisted on Pacioretty's first-period tally. "It says a lot about his character. It's tough, especially for a guy like him who wants to score so badly. He scored two goals afterward. It shows how mentally tough he is and determined he is. Kudos to him."
Pacioretty has seven goals and four assists in 13 meetings with the Hurricanes (26-21-9), and eight of those points have come in wins. That was the case again Jan. 28, when he had one goal and one assist in a 3-0 home victory over Carolina. Two of his three goals in losses this season came in a 5-4 overtime defeat in Raleigh on Dec. 31.
Another strong performance would be a perfect lead-in to the Olympics for Pacioretty, who will join six Montreal teammates in Sochi: Subban and Price (Canada); Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov (Russia); Peter Budaj (Slovakia); and Tomas Plekanec (Czech Republic).
Price is expected to get a fifth straight start before leaving for the Winter Games. He improved to 2-1-1 with a 1.48 goals-against average and one shutout over his last four after making 42 saves against the Canucks.
Price, though, has a 3.11 GAA while going 3-2-1 at Carolina. He had 37 saves before allowing Alexander Semin's goal with 1:33 left in overtime on New Year's Eve.
The Hurricanes have won six of eight games after 10 players earned at least a point in a 5-1 win over Florida on Friday. Jeff Skinner led the way with two assists.
"To be successful in the NHL, you can't rely on one line," said center Riley Nash, who has a goal in each of the last two games. "You see the teams that had success in the past, win Stanley Cups, they have four lines that chip in and they have their big guns going like we do. It's been nice to see."
Semin, who will play for host Russia at the Olympics, has eight goals and three assists in his last 10 games. He scored his 14th goal against the Panthers, eclipsing his 13 from last season - his first with the Hurricanes.
Skinner leads the team with 23 goals after scoring twice over the past three games. The left wing had two goals and one assist in the December win over Montreal.
Eric Staal also had three points in that meeting, starting a nine-game home stretch that includes 11 points.